It’s important everyone getting involved in pro wrestling, especially if you have hopes of making a living within the industry, understand the hierarchy of promotions and what the path looks like from ground zero to WWE.
Your local indie(s):
NCW, Riverworks, ESW, MFW, STW
In the Buffalo area, there are a small number of promotions where, if you began your training with us, it’s likely you’d have your first matches. These include Nickel City Wrestling, Riverworks Wrestling, Empire State Wrestling, and further down in the southern tier, Maximum Force Wrestling and Southern Tier Wrestling.
Out-of-town local indies:
IWF (Rochester), UPW (Rochester), PWR (Erie), Southern Ontario indies, etc.
If you prove you’re valuable enough, promoters in cities beyond the Buffalo area might be willing to book you. Likely candidates here include IWF and Upstate Pro Wrestling, which run separate areas near Rochester; Pro Wrestling Rampage in Erie, Pennsylvania; and a wealth of indies in the Southern Ontario region.
Between your local indies and the out-of-town local indies, you should be able to wrestle several times a month — again if you prove you’re valuable enough to a promoter.
If you continue to improve and show that you bring value to a promotion, promoters from further and further away may be willing to book you.
PWG (Reseda, CA), Evolve (various), AAW (Chicago), Beyond (Providence), AIW (Cleveland), CZW (New Jersey), Smash (Toronto), IWC (Pittsburgh), House of Hardcore, NEW, GFW
Until this group of promotions, the promotions above only really expect to draw fans from the immediate area. The super indies try to attract fans willing to travel longer distances to attend events, and these promotions sell DVDs, live iPPVs or VOD to fans around the world who follow the promotions through the internet.
The most notable of these promotions, as of 2016, is probably Pro Wrestling Guerilla, which runs shows in Reseda, California (near Los Angeles) in a small building, charging high ticket prices and selling DVDs that are popular with deeply-engaged wrestling fans.
The United Kingdom also has a growing presence of super indie promotions, including Progress, Revolution Pro, Insane Championship Wrestling and Preston City Wrestling. Some independent wrestlers who from the U.S. or Canada who are in high demand are flown in to work promotions in the U.K.
Wrestlers who are regulars in the promotions mentioned above are often on the radar to be signed by WWE or other major promotions.
New Japan, Ring of Honor, TNA, Lucha Underground, CMLL, AAA
Besides WWE, these are promotions signing wrestlers to contracts. Some wrestlers make it to one of these promotions without ever really working for super indies, but following the path from super indies to these promotions is probably the most likely path.
Ring of Honor, TNA and Lucha Underground are all promotions on television in the U.S., as of 2016.
CMLL and AAA are the two major promotions in Mexico.
New Japan is the biggest promotion in Japan. New Japan, ROH and CMLL all have a working relationship with one another. Other promotions in Japan include Dragon Gate, DDT and NOAH, which have all been known to book foreign talent.
WWE is by far the most visible promotion in the world. The company largely signs talent who have had outstanding runs on the indies or who have an excellent professional or amateur sports background, or who otherwise have some background in entertainment. Almost all talents who get signed by WWE, who have never been with the company before, are signed after participating in try-outs at the company’s training facility, the WWE Performance Center, in Orlando, Florida.
Most who are signed by WWE train at the Performance Center and wrestle for WWE’s secondary brand, NXT, before hopefully being called up to the main roster. Many are released from their contracts before ever being called up.
Again, not everyone who gets a tryout or who gets signed by WWE has ever necessarily worked for super indies or any of the other major promotions. Many have not. But that is one increasingly frequent path.